French explorers also sailed across the North Atlantic in the vain hope of finding the Northwest Passage.
Fishermen of Portugal and France, who had followed schools of codfish into the North Atlantic, found great bays and inlets along the coast of North America.
Hoping one of them might lead to the Northwest Passage, French explorer Jacques Cartier led two ships into the Gulf of St. Lawrence in 1534. From the gulf, the giant St. Lawrence River disappeared into the interior of North America.
Surely, thought Cartier, this was the passage. He returned two years later, sailed up the St. Lawrence River, and was halted at impass-able rapids. Still hopeful that he would eventually break through to the Indies, he named the rapids La Chine, or China.